The Fitbit Ionic is a unique proposition from the maker of activity trackers and other wearables. It’s been described as the company’s first smartwatch. How does this wearable hold up as a fitness tracker and smartwatch? Let’s go into detail below.
Keep it square. The Ionic is not trying to come off as just a run-of-the-mill watch but it’s not exactly a design marvel either. With its square face, it reminds us a bit of old Casio analog watches. But this time you get a colored touchscreen. It has some pretty thick bezels, which some of you might not appreciate. There is a sensor, though, hidden at the bottom left of the screen, so that might be the reason for design choice.
Its unibody is made of aluminum and this doubles as the Bluetooth and GPS antenna of the smartwatch. With the use of nano-molding technology, this design decision allows for a stronger GPS signal, which will come in handy when you’re exercising outdoors.
The Ionic has three physical buttons flanking the watchcase (one on the left and the other two on the right). These make it easier to you start, pause, or stop workouts while you’re in the middle of working out.
This smartwatch is light on the wrist and comfortable for everyday use. The interchangeable plastic strap that comes with the unit I tested doesn’t irritate my skin, even when I’m sweating it out. There are leather straps you can buy separately, if you want something a bit more stylish than sporty.
Nice and bright but slightly slow. One of the great things about the Ionic is its brightness can reach 1000 nits, making it easy to read off the display even when you’re outdoors. But the touchscreen can be slow to respond at times. You have the option to flick your wrist up to turn on the display, and while this works, it takes a couple of seconds or a bit of a dramatic wrist flick to activate this.
The user interface isn’t quite as intuitive either. While the Ionic lets you store up to 300 songs into the watch itself. It took a lot of tinkering to get this to work. Here’s to hoping Fitbit fixes its UI to make navigation easier.
Syncing with the Fitbit app sometimes causes an issue, too. It took a few restarts when I first used it with my Honor 10, but again this is something Fitbit can address with a software update.
Follow your every move. While I’m not a fitness nut, I know the value of being active and I like that the Ionic can track my movement. Fitbit boasts of a better heart rate monitor on this smartwatch and it seems to deliver on that promise and it does so quickly. With PurePulse heart rate tracking, it can also better measure calorie burn, resting heart rate, and real-time heart rate zones to optimize intensity when you exercise.
With the built-in GPS, it will let you leave your phone behind if you want to go outside for a run. It can still monitor pace and distance as well as record elevation climbed, split times, as well as map your walk, run, or ride. On top of this, the Ionic has a new SpO2 sensor to help monitor blood oxygen levels.
I like the accuracy of how it tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, and hourly activity. It helped me monitor my vitals during yoga sessions. It tracks sleep accurately, too, and shows information on things like light, deep, and REM sleep, as well as offers insights to help improve sleeping habits.
And if you’re like me who’s stuck at a desk for extended periods of time, the Ionic has an option to remind you to move. I got a lot of use from this feature. And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by your workload, the Ionic has a relaxed guided breathing feature, which was also something I used more often than I’d like to admit.
That extra push. The Ionic offers on-screen coaching to help you stay motivated. You get step-by-step instructions for things like a seven-minute workout, 10 min ab exercise, and dynamic workouts, to name a few. The display will show what you need to do. What’s missing now are audio cues. While the smartwatch will vibrate when you’re done doing a specific exercise, it would be nice to not have to look at the screen to see what the next move is.
The Ionic, through the Fitbit app, can also motivate you by setting different goals—including step, distance, active minutes, exercise, hydration, calorie, and weight goals. There are even daily and weekly challenges you can join with your friends and family to keep you on the ball.
Get wet. One of my favorite things about the Ionic is its water resistance. It is water resistant for up to 50 meters, meaning you can swim with it. And when you’re out and it starts raining, you don’t have to scramble to take it off your wrist. If you take a more casual approach to using swimming as a form of exercise, the Ionic will be enough. It can count laps, exercise duration, and calories burned. The screen won’t distract you either because it’ll stay off until you lift your wrist up out of the water.
The extras. While payment via NFC isn’t a popular method of payment here just yet, the Ionic is at least ready for this with Fitbit Pay support.
To help personalize the Ionic, Fitbit app will let you swap out watch faces. It can show different stats or preset images to meet your needs or match your style.
Long-lasting. For a device marketed as a smartwatch, the Ionic has decent battery life. I can usually get around five days. But this, of course, depends on how heavy you use it. Fitbit claims if you’ve set the screen to always be on while you’re out on a run with GPS and GLONASS on, you get around five hours. It takes a couple of hours to get it to charge from zero to 100 percent.
The Fitbit Ionic has a lot going for it as a fitness tracker. But as a smartwatch, there’s still some work to be done.
|Display||Color LCD touchscreen|
|Sensors and components||3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, vibration motor|
|Connectivity and I/O ports||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC|
|Water resistance||Up to 50 meters|
|Syncing||Up to 30 feet (range); syncs with Mac OS X 10.6 and up, iPhone 4S and later, iPad 3 gen and later, Android 4.4 and later, Windows 10; requires Bluetooth LE and internet connection|
|In the box||Fitbit Ionic watch, classic wristbands (small and large), charging cable, manuals|
|Battery||Li-Po, two-hour charge time|